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Mary Stevenson of Magheragar, Strabane, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

Submitted by Margaret Ritchie

N.B. - for family photos click here.


The Life of Mary Stevenson


John James Stevenson born abt. 1845 and Sarah Craig (from Ballyfolliard) born19th February 1852, married 24th November 1870, they were farmers and lived on a farm in Peacock Road, known then as the Magheragar region, Strabane, Co.Tyrone, N.Ireland.

Mary was born on 13th October 1875 in Magheragar, her name was pronounced ‘marry’ Stevenson and was one of 9 children. There were 6 brothers and 2 sisters.

Mary’s Siblings all born in Magheragar, were:

John Stevenson the eldest was born 24th November1871, and died 1961. Married Cilla.

James Stevenson was born19th April 1873 and died 1947. Married Constance Edith Lilly. He went to Australia, they had no children and he never came back

Edward Stevenson born 1876 and died 10th November1933 aged 57. Married Maggie Craig (1st cousin) on 11th October 1917.

Sarah Stevenson born c.1877, died1969. Married Adam Patton on 13th September 1906..

Jane Stevenson born in 1879, died 23rd February 1893 aged 14years.

Charles Stevenson born c.1881. Married Peggy Stevenson (Oliver’s daughter, cousin from Kinkitt, they were Drapers in Strabane). Charlie was a Colonel Lieutenant. He went to Bermuda.

Sam Stevenson born 20th June 1883. Married his cousin Martha Sarah Stevenson (Uncle Edward’s daughter)

Oliver Stevenson born 11th November 1884, went to Winnipeg, he was a Corporal in the Canadian Rifle Regiment, and killed in WW1

Mary’s Mother, Sarah died 7th December 1889 aged 37 years, when Mary was

13 years old. As the eldest girl she stayed at home to look after her father and siblings and no doubt learnt many of her life skills at home, to include housework, cooking, making and mending clothes, knitting and crochet work.

Mary eventually did her Nurses training, which she completed after 3 years as a Probationer Nurse at the Tyrone County Hospital, on 14th November 1902. This was in Omagh, 12 miles from her home. The hours were long with very few days off. Her dress was worn to the ankles covered by a large apron. Hanging under the apron was a belt called a ‘chatelaine’, containing scissors and needles used for stitching bandages in place, (safety pins were not used in those days).

Mary left the Tyrone co. Hospital 13th October 1905.

She eventually came over to England to do private nursing. At this time she was a staff nurse at Grosvenor House Nursing Home, Grosvenor Square, in Southampton, Hampshire.

In 1910 there was an epidemic of influenza and pneumonia, which affected over 150 boys, at the Osborne Naval College. Mary was seconded to nurse Prince Albert of Wales, who later became King George VI. He had pleurisy. Three nurses shared these duties, and afterwards they were each given a brooch with the Prince of Wales’s cap and 3 feathers. Mary was given a green one because she came from Ireland. She also received letters from Prince Albert and from his parents.

Mary’s father John James Stevenson died on 5th January 1914 in Magheragar, Co.Tyrone, Ireland

Her first ‘Love’(name unknown) was killed in the Boer War.

Mary also nursed a young man in Southampton who she later married. He was William George Greenslade, and worked at the South Hants Water Co. as Chief Clerk. They married on 31st July 1911 in Magheragar, Co.Tyrone, N.Ireland. Witnesses were John Stevenson (Mary’s Brother) and Harriet Stevenson.

Their home was 145 Hill Lane, Southampton, but later had its number changed to 115 Hill Lane. They had 2 girls.

William and Mary had bicycles to get about on. Buses did not appear until 1920.

William was not strong and Mary nursed him at home, until he died, on 1st January 1921, aged 46 years. She never celebrated the New Year again. This left Mary with two small girls, aged 3 and 8 years old, to bring up on her own.

After her husband’s death, Mary had to go back out to work. There was no state benefit in those days! Their family doctor was very good and kept her in mind when suitable private work was available. There was no National Health Service (NHS).

The neighbours were also very good and helped by keeping an eye on her children.

As William had been a Mason it was decided that Joan the elder daughter, should go to the Junior Masonic School, at Weybridge. Her name had been put forward to the committee, and 18 months later she was sent, aged 10 years, but her sister couldn’t go until she was 7 years old.

The Masons also paid and arranged for Joan to go to Magheragar, Co.Tyrone,

N. Ireland and stay with relatives during some summer holidays. Mary also visited in 1926 and 1928.

On visits to Ireland, Joan remembered a large kitchen table, and gas lighting and oil lamps, in a farmhouse. She also remembered going for walks, or rides in a “trap” (horse and cart), and playing with her cousin Molly. The farmhouse was pulled down later and a bungalow is now in its place. Some of her relatives still work the farms.

Joan had to leave school and work to support and look after Mary when she suffered from pneumonia.

Joan married Sterndale H. Shepherd (Sternie) on 29th April 1939 in Southampton and moved to live in Guildford, Surrey.

The 2nd World war started in 1939, Sternie was ‘called up’ to enlist for the war in November 1940,

Mary’s next door neighbour’s house was bombed. This left Mary’s house flooded so she had to leave her home in Southampton. On the 1st December 1940, and came to live with Sternie and Joan, in Guildford. Their first child was born at the end of 1940, and they had two more children in 1945 and 1947. Mary shared a bedroom with her granddaughter, until she went away to a boarding school aged 10 years.

Mary’s home in Southampton was sold in 1942.

Mary cared for her granddaughter, whilst her daughter ran the family business, and her daughter’s husband was away in the war.

Mary diagnosed her granddaughter with TB, and early intervention meant a full recovery.

Mary’s favourite song was ‘The Mountains of Mourne’

Mary suffered from ‘asthma’ and ‘bronchitis’ and used an inhaler. A mixture of ‘Ribarvin’ and ‘Ribarvex’ were poured into a glass tube with a rubber ball on the end, then Mary would squeeze the ball for a few minutes and inhale the vapour until her breathing was easier.

Mary’s younger daughter married. Mary went to look after her when they were expecting twins in May 1941. Her daughter’s husband was ‘called up’ after their birth. They had another daughter born in 1951.

Mary had gone to stay with her younger daughter in Lewes, Sussex, whilst there she had a heart attack, but as there was a friend visiting, she didn’t mention it at the time. Later the Doctor came, he told her to go to bed, Mary then drifted into a coma for three days. Joan was sent for, but Mary never regained consciousness. Mary died 3rd September 1953 aged 77 years, and was buried with William George Greenslade in Plot 49 G No.54 Southampton Old Cemetery, Hampshire, England.